Skipping exercise in favor of less demanding activities – such as sitting or lying down – was linked to a slight decrease in memory and thinking abilities, a study published Monday in the British newspaper The Guardian showed. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Study lead author John Mitchell, a researcher at the UK’s Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health, said the differences, although small, show how even small changes in levels of physical activity can affect a person’s health, including brain health.
Mitchell and colleagues used data from 1970 British Cohort Study – An ongoing study that tracks the health of a group of people born in the UK in the 1970s. Study findings are based on data from around 4,500 people followed from 2016 to 2018.
Participants provided information about their health, background, and lifestyle. They were also required to wear the activity tracker for at least 10 consecutive hours per day for up to seven days, even while sleeping and showering.
During the study, participants underwent a series of tests that assessed their ability to process and retrieve information.
The participants, on average, did 51 minutes of moderate or intense exercise each day. about six hours of light activity, such as a slow walk; and about nine hours of sedentary behaviour, such as sitting or lying down. They also got, on average, about eight hours of sleep.
Mitchell noted that moderate to intense activity in the study was considered anything that “stimulates the heart” or makes a person “feel warm.”
After analyzing the participants’ activity data, the researchers found that those who skipped the eight-minute exercise of sedentary behavior experienced a 1% to 2% decrease in their cognitive scores.
Researchers observed a similar decline in cognitive performance when people replaced vigorous exercise with six minutes of light physical activity or seven minutes of sleep.
But the opposite was also true: Exercising instead of sitting boosted cognitive performance. The study found that replacing sitting or lying down with nine minutes of vigorous exercise was associated with a more than 1% increase in cognition scores.
Avirop Biswas, assistant professor of epidemiology and associate scientist at the Institute of Work and Health in Toronto, said the findings should encourage people to move more.
“Physical activity is associated with a whole host of benefits, so you really want to promote as much regular physical activity as possible,” said Biswas, who was not involved in the research.
the Department of Health and Human Services He recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week, in addition to two days of muscle-strengthening training.
Biswas said the link between getting more exercise and better brain performance is still not clear, but it’s likely a result of how the body’s cardiovascular system works.
“When you’re active, you’re basically improving the strength of your heart and improving your heart’s ability to pump blood through your body and into one of the most important organs: your brain,” he said.
In contrast, when people don’t get enough exercise, it can potentially lead to a number of health problems, including those that affect the brain, such as dementia, said Marc Roeg, a professor of physical and occupational therapy at McGill University in Montreal. . He was also not involved in the new study.
Exercise intensity is also important, Roig added, noting that people in the study who participated in light physical activity rather than more vigorous activity also experienced a decrease in cognitive functioning.
He said scientists are still trying to determine which exercises are best for improving people’s general health and preventing chronic disease.
Mitchell, the study’s author, noted that light activity is still better than sitting still.
“It seems indisputable that light activity is better than sitting for many aspects of health, but the jury is still out on the critical ‘threshold’ intensity for optimal health, including cognitive health,” he said.